Newton’s black-box physics.
From laws of force and motion in mechanics, Isaac Newton developed laws of orbital motion around ‘centres of force’ and saw gravity as governing the motions of the celestial bodies as well as apples falling from trees. But despite using the ‘force’ terminology perhaps more readily associated with mechanics, Newton concluded that gravity might be due to unseen signals acting across empty space in line with William Gilbert’s physics theory, or might be caused by the impact force of unseen ether matter in line with Rene Descartes physics. But Newton saw his laws of science as correctly predicting natural events without the need to know why things happened, in the manner of ‘black box’ behaviour laws that related only inputs or stimuli to outputs or responses. Newton considered hypotheses regarding unseens like ‘gravity signals crossing space’ or ‘ether matter filling space’ as matters of philosophy or logic and not science, but as not easily disproven by science. Newton’s physics was about what the universe did, but explicitly excluded explanations of why.
Up to Albert Einstein’s time, physicists and astronomers had been almost all agreed that the physical universe followed basically simple laws of behaviour, and that their observations and experiments showed that. But technology and experiments became more sophisticated and seemed to be showing that the physical universe followed more complex laws of behaviour, perhaps even defying logic, and so Einstein developed his physics theory.
Einstein’s space-time physics.
Einstein’s view of gravity involved a substantially different kind of Descartes ‘ether matter’ filling space. Einstein concluded that there existed a space-time continuum whose local metrical qualities differ in the environment of different points of space-time, being partly conditioned by the matter existing outside of the territory under consideration. This space-time variability of the reciprocal relations of the standards of space and time, required that “empty space” in its physical relation be neither homogeneous nor isotropic and its state be described by ten functions (of the gravitation potentials g) – space not being physically empty. This ‘ether’ of Einstein’s general theory of relativity is a medium which is itself devoid of all mechanical and kinematical qualities, but somehow helps to determine mechanical (and electromagnetic) events.
What is fundamentally new in the ether of Einstein’s general theory of relativity as opposed to the ethers of Descartes or Lorentz consists in its state at every place being determined by connections with the matter and the state of the ether in neighbouring places which are amenable to law in the form of differential equations. And in Einstein’s space-time continuum, time itself becomes variable. There hence can be no space nor any part of space without gravitational potentials; for these confer upon space-time its metrical qualities, without which a space-time continuum cannot be imagined at all.
Einstein being dishonest to himself ?
In Einstein’s general relativity physics bodies impose curves on his time-space-gravity continuum, and the continuum imposes motion on bodies. Although push-physics analogies such as rubber-sheets are often used to ‘explain’ this, the theory does not involve any push-physics mechanism and indeed does not specify any clear mechanism for this. Gravitational forces of any kind are completely abolished as controlling the motion of planets or other bodies, and somehow space-curves do this – logically by pushings yet seemingly without having any push properties since the continuum is non-material ?
Einstein concluded that “the ether of the general theory of relativity is a medium which is itself devoid of all mechanical and kinematical qualities, but helps to determine mechanical (and electromagnetic) events.” But if this leaves the improved maths of Einstein’s theory with no realistic explanation of why the universe works as it does, then his theory must be basically taken (as Newton intended his theory to be taken) as a blackbox theory of what happens with the real why explanation an unknown.
Yet Einstein did repeatedly allow of ‘rubber-sheets’ type anologies for his theory’s supposed why explanations – when it actually has no why explanation. He was perhaps not being intentionally dishonest to the world, but almost certainy was being dishonest with himself in not fully facing his theory’s chief weakness – its being basically an improved Newton black-box physics and not more than that ?
The maths of Einstein’s theory certainly seems to predict better than the maths of Newton’s theory in some areas, but that in itself is perhaps no proof of Einstein’s theory of what the universe is and does – and still less of any explanation of why it works ? Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity even he considered to be at least incomplete, and perhaps also giving no real explanation, and now it perhaps is chiefly supported by cosmologists and astronomers. But despite modern quantum physics development like string, loop and other quantal theories that seem supported mostly by ‘particle physicists’ using field and particle-wave duality ideas, it can perhaps be said that nobody has yet successfully published any physics theory better than Einstein’s still limited theory ?
Copyright 2006 Vincent Wilmot
Newton’s black-box physics.